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First run on the first railroad

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay-area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.

 

By R.L. HEMINGER

 

Passengers on the first run of Hancock County’s first railroad in November, 1849, included Dr. R.H. Hollyday, then the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church here. His wife and father-in-law, Robert Patterson of Bellefontaine, were along.

Dr. Hollyday and his brother-in-law, Joseph H. Patterson of Findlay, a merchant here, had done much to help bring the railroad into being. Robert Patterson at Bellefontaine was a director of the main line of the road through Carey, with Sandusky and Springfield being terminal points. Through cooperation, plans were worked whereby Hancock County would build the road through taxation. The voters approved an issue at the polls to authorize action.

Dr. and Mrs. Hollyday had gone to Bellefontaine early in November and were returning to Findlay late in the month, deciding to make the journey by rail and ride the first passenger train on the new route between Carey and Findlay. Robert Patterson accompanied them.

The party stayed all night at Carey at the hotel there and boarded the train on the new route for the run to Findlay. The hotel’s porter became excited and by mistake placed the Hollyday trunk on a main line headed south. But the Findlay party came on anyway.

There was one passenger coach on the Findlay branch. The rails were strips of strap iron. Later, the roadbed and rails were upgraded at the county’s expense.

Hancock County voted to issue up to $75,000 in bonds to pay for the railroad. Only $45,000 was actually expended, however. Of the remaining amount, $12,000 was later utilized in improved rails on the route.

Named as agents of Hancock County in the project were Wilson Vance. William Taylor, John Patterson, William L. Henderson, Squire Carlin, John Ewing, Jacob Barnd, Hiram Smith and Charles W. O’Neal. Not all served at one time, however. They had the authority to obtain right-of-way, put the work under contract and carry out all business relative to the completion of the road.

But when the line was done, the authorities of the main line, known as the Mad River Railroad, decided they did not want the branch even as a gift. Robert Patterson, the member of the road’s board, put up a battle and eventually won a majority over to acceptance of the branch. All the railroad was asked to do was furnish the rolling stock, which it finally agreed to do.

When traffic started on the railroad, E.P. Jones, who was to become the first president of the First National Bank in Findlay in the 1860s, became the “operator.” He leased the railroad and ran it for eight years. He had come to Sandusky from the East and became a railroad agent there, handling the Sandusky end of the business for the Mad River. He had been a post office clerk in Cleveland prior to going to Sandusky. He went to Salem, Oregon, after the railroad lease experience here and returned to Ohio four years later and in 1863 joined with Charles E. Niles in founding the First National Bank here. His home on East Sandusky Street was long one of Findlay’s most substantial dwellings, attracting much attention and interest because of its nature.

The new railroad ran to Findlay’s Main Street on East Crawford for a long time, until its terminal eventually became Kirk Wholesale grocery house about half way from East Street. In the old days Crawford Street was known as Railroad Street because of the tracks. The west part of what is now Crawford Street on the west side of Main Street was Putnam Street.

The Presbyterian Church, of which Dr. Hollyday was pastor, was on Crawford Street and the tracks were directly in front of the church. Some seven years after the railroad began operations, the church decided to move — a railroad line directly in front of its door not being entirely satisfactory. A lot was secured at the northeast corner of South Main and East Hardin streets and an edifice constructed there. It stood on somewhat of an elevation. This site is now, of course, the location of the Marathon Oil Co.’s main building. The church early in the 20th century built a new structure at the southwest corner of South Main and Lincoln streets. This was the building which was destroyed by fire in the mid 1950s.

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